Even though it’s been over 30 years since James “Quick” Tillis mixed it up with some of the greatest heavyweight fighters in boxing history, and more than held his own, he has been a source of great pride in Oklahoma boxing circles. But, his legacy has really been about his humble love for Tulsa; a cowboy, a boxer, a role model and great ambassador for Tulsa.
Last week Tulsans gathered to remember his life one more time when they renamed a section of East Virgin Street “Quick Tillis Way.” Just so happened he grew up there. There was a time Tulsa north was the boundary between city and prairie and the cowboy culture resided next to metropolitan Tulsa. The result was a mix of cowboys and African Americans. Of course, that history didn’t start there but with men like Bill Pickett. Tillis lived the life of a cowboy and was found on a horse often during and after his boxing career.
He came close to winning the heavyweight crown but his fights against some of the best the world has ever seen are legendary and the needs to be celebrated for his long career and exemplary life outside of the ring. We could all learn that our reach should exceed our reach and never give up, no matter what.
Tulsa City Council Serves Up Half A Loaf And Establishing Native American Day
Oklahoma and Tulsa have a long way to go before they can join the fraternity of governments that have made courageous and noble changes in the name of race relations.
Tulsa stuck a toe in the pond of change last week when it moved to recognize the second Monday in October as Native American Day to recognize the achievements and culture of Native people. It is also a federal holiday after Christopher Columbus. While he is recognized as having discovered America, that is of course disputed by Indian people who say you can’t discover a land when they already lived here. He also started the slaughter of Native Americans and opened the slave trade. Not something most people want to celebrate. He was also lost and thought he landed in India.
Because of the new perspective or the new embracing of the truth, many progressive cities have replaced Columbus Day with Indian Day, Indigenous Day, or Native American Day, to not only respect the culture of Indian people but to correct a wrong by celebrating Columbus.
Cities like Albuquerque, N.M, Minneapolis, Minn., Seattle, Wash., Denver, Colo., the states of California and North Dakota have replaced local recognition of Columbus with Native American Day. The first cities in Oklahoma to replace Columbus Day was Anadarko followed by Norman. But, there is one covenant in the Tulsa action; they are keeping Columbus Day. Apparently, we can’t be as progressive as everyone else. Perhaps there will be a day when we right the wrongs of Tulsa’s tragic past and not only recognize its rich racial heritage but to truly do away with the last vestiges of its painful racial sins. For a city to keep Brady street named after a Klan member and rename it Brady after someone not ever from Oklahoma says a lot about how far we have to go. Once again Tulsa serves the people of color in town half a loaf. It’s not enough.